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Fulton Schools, Teachers’ Union Starting Contract Talks, But Not In Time To Help Cut Budget

The Fulton City School District and its largest union are about to begin talks towards a new contract at the same time as the district is trying to squeeze every penny of savings out of a budget that so far contains a massive deficit.

A committee of district officials, Board of Education members and members of the community met Tuesday night to continue working on the 2010-11 budget.  The most recent draft of the budget shows that spending is up 2.6% but the tax levy would have to increase by more than 13%, primarily because the state is planning to cut state aid to all schools.  The current draft includes the loss of 8 full-time jobs.

Community member Fred Cavaliere asked Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch how much money he was putting in the budget for salary increases for members of the teachers’ union and for members of the administrators’ union. Contracts for both unions end at the end of the school year.

“We don’t have money.  We’re not shy about saying that,” Lynch said.

The district may not have money, but it has to pretend it does, at least when it comes to projecting the outcome of contract talks.

The new budget has to be complete by mid-April because it will be voted on during the statewide school budget voting day in May.  The contracts do not expire until the end of June and an early agreement seems unlikely.  So the district has to build in some money for raises, even if its position will be no raises.  That’s because a state factfinder could ultimately order a settlement and it could include raises.

“Our experience with fact-finding was that they told us, ‘Go find the money'” for raises, said Board of Education member Robbin Griffin.

“We would be irresponsible to plan too low,” said Lynch.

So money for potential raises goes into the budget.

The teachers’ union’s annual payroll is $21.06 million, while the administrators’ payroll is $1.4 million. (Each payroll is actually slightly higher, but federal grants cover that portion.)  That means that every 1% increase in salary in the new contract will cost about $225,000.

Put another way: If the district could be certain that there would be no raises in 2010-11 for members of those two unions, it could reduce its budget without cutting programs or staff.  Assuming the district is setting aside enough money for 3% increases, that would equal about $675,000.  Cutting that spending out of the draft budget would lower the tax levy from the current 13.4% to just under 10%.

The district has been projecting about $60,000 in savings for every teaching position cut, so that $675,000 equals about 11 teaching positions.

“We may have to be as blunt (with the unions) as, ‘$1.5 million equals 38 teachers'”, said community member Ed Proto.

Lynch reviewed for the committee other ways of cutting the budget beyond the 8 positions that have been targeted for elimination.  They include:

  • Cutting 5 positions in grades K-8 for academic intervention services for math, because math is an area of strength right now;
  • Eliminating one position each in high school math, English, science and social studies;
  • Not replacing one high school technology teacher;
  • Restructuring the technology infrastructure department;
  • Cutting into teacher development programs;
  • Eliminating one of the late bus runs;
  • Making more efficient use of non-instructional aides.

One board member indicated it was time to revisit plans, made last year before anyone knew how bad the budget would be, to preserve sports, extracurricular and co-curricular spending at current levels.

4 Comments

  1. Here’s an idea that is long overdue end this percent raise it is a killer. Base the raises on blocks of years of service. Here is how the percent thing kills the budget. A percent increase in pay is across the board and eventually becomes expential. The distric could better manage the budget if it were built on solid actual numbers from year to year. If an employees current rate of pay is 50,000. a 3% pay increase (which is very generous these days) equals 1,500.00 in the first year. That employee will be payed 51,500. in the next year in the years that follow that increases substantially. Next year your 3% pay increase is figured on your new adjusted pay rate of 51,500. that same increase of 3% in now 1,545.00 in the second year and it continues to climb each year. So lets settle it and give pay increases based on tiers broken down by years of service. For example an employee in his or her 1st thru 4th years of service gets 1000.00 pay increase an employee in years 5 thru 9 years get 1250.00 or whatever they can agree on depending what criteria the deep more important. Every year you will know exactly how much your wage increases will cost or save you. A second point here to consider we need to treat this budget like that of any corporation. Examine each cost by each plant or in this case each school. In our district we have 6 schools the high school and junior high which are operating pretty close to max capicity. The four remaining schools each are all operating at less than max capacity 1960 out of 3350. One of those is not needed. One school can handle 1000 students two schools can handle 800 students each and one school can handle 750 students. Closing one building and maximizing staffing and space within the other three is the way to go rather than letting go of critically needed areas like AIS staff. I would like to know exactly how much each building individually in the distric costs and by this I mean everything. Insurance, upkeep, heating, lighting, water, sewer, snow removal everything. There needs to be a cost for each building not just collectively even if some of the cost are shared. Then we can see which building or buildings we can do with out. And then finally we need to coinsider which buildings or properties will bring the district the most value. Thanks hope these ideas help.

  2. d e bates has a heck of a good idea on how to pay the teachers and administration staff. i’m retired and also disabllled (agent orange), the federal government told us that we won’t be getting our $40-$60 cost of living raise for the next 2 years because the cost of living hasn’t gone up. you could have fooled me and everyone else, a $1000.00 increase in 1 year???, you’re kidding me aren’t you??? get real and get down here where the rest of us are.

  3. The teachers union and administrators could stand up and volunteer to be part of the solution by taking a slight pay cut and/or declining a pay increase next year. Oh, I forgot, that would trigger the standard union leader’s response that it might set a precedent they couldn’t live with in the future.

    So… just tell them that there will be a proportionate reduction of teacher and administrative staff to reach the goal of a zero % budget increase. Do more with less… that is what businesses do and what each of us do in our personal lives.

  4. Thanks for the lesson on compounding interest. I suppose determining future salary increases with percentages is difficult if you don’t know how to use a calculator. Unfortunately, many people do not know about compounding interest and would rather let it work for their credit card company and bank by borrowing and buying on credit instead of letting it work in the personal savings and investments. I digress however, this crisis is obviously the teachers fault; they read a book and can do math.

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